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Corridor Updates

Updates on the Transit Corridors

The North Corridor

This corridor which includes Davidson, Cornelius, and Huntersville is blessed with a lightly used rail freight line which should be utilized for regional rail service using self-propelled vehicles like the Flexliner, or bi-level commuter cars with locomotives and cab control units.  This line could be used jointly by Norfolk Southern Railroad and the transit service eliminating the need for building separate parallel track/tracks as will have to be done with Triangle Transit's regional rail service between Durham and North Raleigh.

The line should eventually run between Statesville and Charlotte providing frequent service during morning and afternoon rush periods and less frequent service midday and in the evenings.  The existing line should be upgraded and the abandoned segment between Troutman and Statesville rebuilt either on old right of way or alternate path following I-77. Maximum speed should be 79 miles per hour with signaling installed the length of the line.  Many grade crossings need to be improved or closed depending on road usage.

Feeder bus routes will be needed to connect with the rail service in Davidson, Cornelius, and Huntersville.  These connectors should also be given high priority for stops around the proposed I-485 interchange, the Davis Lake area, and Derita.  The stop at I-485 should include a large park and ride facility for those who would drive to catch the train.

In Iredell County, transit friendly development and appropriate land use should be implemented along the line.  A large park and ride facility where the line crosses I-77 could draw many by auto to take regional rail service into Charlotte.

The Uptown terminus for the North Corridor service should be the Intermodal Terminal being planned for West Trade Street in Charlotte by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.   Construction could begin by 2002 and completion is expected by 2004.  From this terminal which will be shared with Amtrak, Greyhound, and other transpiration services one could also connect with local bus/light rail/vintage trolley service and taxis.  With the Gateway project to be completed along West Trade in the next few years there would also be ample opportunity to walk to nearby job locations.

A link to the existing East Trade Street Transit Center could be provided by a proposed light rail/trolley loop through uptown, or by dedicated transit bus.  There is insufficient capacity and available land to put all transit services into the East Trade Transit Center as proposed by consultants during the Transit/Land Use Studies during 1998.   All inter-city services will be at the West Trade Street terminal.

The northern terminus of the this service would be the restored Southern Railway station in Statesville.  A connection to the planned Raleigh-Asheville Amtrak service would be made at this location by regional rail service, and dedicated connecting trains from Charlotte at some time in the future.  Interests in Iredell County are already working with N.C. DOT on this vision.  With the lease negotiations between the State of North Carolina and the Norfolk Southern Railroad ongoing and several years required before any rail operation could begin, North Mecklenburg communities may want to have some interim plan in effect to put mass transit in place.

Bus service interim plan in effect to put mass transit in place, not by way of a busway, but using existing roads such as NC 115, US 21 and I-77, or most likely a combination of all these.

The future train stations and parking facilities in these towns could be built and instead of being served by a busway they could be served by buses using these existing routes.  The focal point of any bus service should be these planned train stations in the traditional downtown centers of these communities.

When commuter rail service does begin, it is likely to start as a rush hour only operation.  This bus service could continue as a mid-day operation, affording people the opportunity to go and get home in mid-day, when trains are not running.  As ridership builds up, mid-day train service would be added until it operates all day and the duplicating bus services eliminated.

Finally, CEMT believes the North Corridor service should be regional rail with bus connections.  A parallel busway between Charlotte and Davidson proposed by consultants is inappropriate and in fact undesired by North Mecklenburg residents. North Mecklenburg wants to focus improvement and development along the rail line which runs through their town centers and not along the interstate.  A busway along I-77 would be
conflict with those desires and would forfeit around 70 million dollars that could be used for the rail service here, and in other corridors in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

The South Corridor

The preferred option for this corridor which includes Pineville is light rail transit.   The northern end of the route is soon to be upgraded for vintage trolley service between 11th Street Uptown and Tremont Avenue in South End near the trolley barn.   This service will blend much better with future light rail than a parallel busway along the corridor proposed earlier.  Trolley service construction starts in early 2000, and should be completed by summer 2001.

The city of Charlotte already owns, or will own soon all of the right of way between 11th Street Uptown and Scaleybark Road on which this service would travel.  South of Scaleybark Road consultants are looking at using parallel right of way all the way to Pineville with one option,  a majority of the way with another option which would move further west near I-485.

A segment of light rail alignment between Scaleybark Road and Bourbon Street could be shared with Norfolk Southern Railroad.  C&T Refinery and Bowers Fibers are the only two customers, and could be served at night while the transit system is not operating ( 1 AM to 5 AM ) .  Another option would totally separate the light rail and freight railroad operations by using adjacent right of way and grade separating crossings at Woodlawn Road and Tyvola Road.

CEMT favors a western alignment for light rail between the Lance Company plant and the Southland Industrial Park in Pineville.  This avoids tight right of way requirements along South Blvd. and potential severe congestion problems around the South Blvd./I-485 interchange where a large park and ride facility is proposed.  This facility is most appropriate on a large tract of land north of I-485 and east of Westinghouse Boulevard.   Entrance directly off of I-485 will make for the most efficient movement of vehicles into the facility eliminating congestion problems if closer to South Boulevard.

The western alignment should return to the Norfolk Southern Railroad right of way north of Pineville south of Industrial Drive.  This avoids problems with wetlands on the southern end of the consultant's western alignment, and brings light rail to Pineville's town center where transfers with future commuter/inter-city rail will be most convenient.

Parking could be limited in the Pineville town center if desired, to avoid congestion.   We believe a light rail terminal in the town center will help to stabilize the downtown area and ensure that the focus of the community remains the town center.

CEMT believes that the Fort Mill area, including the former Heritage USA development, and Rock Hill might best be served by commuter/regional rail on the Norfolk Southern rail line.

The reason for this is because development in more spread out, station stops would be further apart and the area generally more suited to this type of operation, which could easily be coordinated with the similar planned operation in the Lake Norman area. Without overhead wire and completely separate tracks it would also be cheaper to build.

The Rock Hill service would bypass the large number of stops on the light rail line north of Pineville and bring passengers uptown to the Intermodal Transportation Center.   The facility is to be built by the North Carolina Department of Transportation in the next few years.  Commuters would have the option of transferring to light rail in Pineville if their destination is one of the local stops along the line served by light rail.

Connecting bus transit routes will be an integral part of transit operations in the South Corridor.  Routes from the Ballantyne Commons and Carolina Place areas could be integrated into the large park and ride facility near I-485.  Other connecting bus routes from neighborhoods would connect with light rail along the length of the corridor.

The South Corridor construction could begin as early as 2002, and completion of at least part of the line might occur by 2004.  Federal funds will be sought the 227 million dollar project.  State funds and local funds from the new half-cent sales tax will also be used.

The South Corridor is the most attractive of the five corridors identified in the Transit/Land Use Plan since a rail bed is already in place, and a good portion can be integrated into the project.

The Independence Corridor

Light rail and regional rail are both possibilities for the corridor connecting Charlotte, Matthews, and Monroe.  Regional rail (diesel multiple units or locomotive pulled consists) could link Charlotte with Union County (Monroe/Indian Trail/Stallings ) on the CSX Railroad tracks.  Light rail could serve more local and urban trips between Matthews and Charlotte on right of way parallel to the CSX , and a section of street running in Elizabeth and Uptown.

A transfer station in Matthews would allow passengers to change from regional rail to light rail if their destination was one of the local stops served by light rail between Matthews and Uptown.  Regional rail passengers would then have a fast trip to the intermodal terminal uptown.

To accommodate regional rail additional capacity would have to be built in to the CSX line between Charlotte and Monroe.  This is already planned as part of the North Carolina Department of Transportation's plan to begin inter-city rail passenger service between Charlotte and Wilmington by 2005.  This upgrade will enable the line to handle additional CSX freights being added as a result of the Conrail merger, the inter-city passenger train service, and the regional rail service between Charlotte and Monroe.

Light rail could be built on right of way adjacent to the CSX line from I-485 to a point just east of Dunn Avenue in Charlotte.  From this point the light rail line would descend down to 7th Street on the east side of the Dunn Avenue railroad overpass.  It would then run in dedicated right of way in the middle of 7th Street ( like Burnside Avenue in Portland ), or share street travel lanes in some sections ( like in Sacramento ) before connecting with the light rail/trolley line between Brevard Street and College Street.  Following the CSX line from 7th Street to Uptown by way of Central Avenue would be too circuitous and costly, and passes through areas that are not ripe for intense development opportunities .  The Elizabeth neighborhood would provide a large base of potential riders.  The neighborhood was one of the original streetcar suburbs.

Connecting bus transit would be an integral part of the eastside transit plan.  Buses would connect with light rail at a number of stations connecting large residential areas north of Providence Road , and major cross town routes at Wendover Road.  The Central Avenue local transit routes would continue, and transit service between Uptown and Eastland Mall could be improved by a busway linking the two.

A large park and ride facility at the east end of the light rail line in Matthews near I-485 would allow many to park their cars and take the train into the city. Connecting bus routes could also be handled there.

CEMT disagrees with the idea that the present busway on Independence Boulevard and a rapid transit corridor down to Matthews are inseparable.  Since the busway in its present form is already in existence, we will not oppose it provided it does not run down Independence Boulevard below Albemarle Road, and is directed toward Eastland Mall and the projected bus transfer hub to be located there.  However we feel that if the busway is rebuilt as part of any redevelopment effort there should not be any station stops in the busway above the Merchandise Mart/Independence Arena area, unless they are approved by the local neighborhood groups involved.  People in this area have voiced the opinion that the stations are unnecessary because they already have good local bus service on Central Avenue and Seventh Street, only minutes from uptown.

Previous studies by transit consultants have shown that a rapid transit line from Charlotte to Matthews has the greatest ridership potential of any transit corridor in Charlotte.  Recent indications are that this continued to hold true.  Why should the people in this corridor have to settle for anything less than as good of rapid transit as that of any other corridor?  This is especially the case now that the tax referendum makes the money available to do the job right.

CEMT believes only light rail would be attractive enough to draw a significant number of riders along the entire Charlotte to Matthews corridor.  Buses can serve as excellent feeders and handle cross-town routes, but a bus ride all the way from Matthews would not be received as favorably as alight rail trip between the two points.  We feel that Independence Boulevard is an extremely automobile oriented corridor, unfriendly to mass transit and not a suitable right-of-way on which to build a rapid transit corridor almost all the way to Matthews. Despite the higher capital cost of building light rail than a busway, CEMt feels the additional cost is warranted to provide efficient, comfortable, and well received transit service well into the 21st century.

The University Corridor

CEMT believes light rail offers the most viable and attractive form of transit for the future in this corridor which links the University area
with the Center City.  Additional bus frequencies using I-85 and North
Graham Street, and serving the scattered business locations in
University City , the IBM Research Park, and the University of North
Carolina at Charlotte could be instituted to build transit ridership
preceding completion of the rail line.

Use of the abandoned IBM rail spur in Derita and additional land
purchases would fashion a light rail line linking the Uptown area with
Derita, the IBM Research Park, UNCC, and a major park-and-ride and
transfer station at I-485 and NC Highway 49.  This scenario would create the synergy for more intensive commercial, business and residential
development along a dedicated corridor.

The busway concept offered by the Transit Land Use Consultants in 1998 does not foster this increased development potential.   It attempts to
serve the already existing work and commercial areas taking a defeatist
approach to making any smart growth and transit friendly improvements to the area.   The proposed routing of buses is so circuitous it seems
unlikely many would realistically consider the service as an alternative to driving from the University area to the Center City.

CEMT envisions the northern terminus of the light rail line would be at
I-485 on right of way parallel to the Norfolk Southern Railway east of
NC 49.  Ample land still exists there for construction of a large park
and ride facility similar to what is proposed for the South Corridor at
I-485 north of Pineville.  Future Charlotte-Concord commuter/regional rail service to Concord/Kannapolis, and possibly as far north as Salisbury, could stop there enabling transfers to and from light rail.  CEMT envisions the commuter/regional rail using the existing Norfolk Southern rail corridor through Newell and North Charlotte.

From that point the light rail line would proceed south skirting the
north side of the campus of UNCC before turning west heading toward the University City/ University Memorial Hospital area.  From this point the line would parallel Harris Blvd. crossing I-85, then crossing Harris Blvd. near the First Union complex.  From First Union the line could pick up the old IBM rail spur right of way , or other alternate routing to reach the Norfolk Southern Railroad right of way along Sugar Creek Road and North Graham Street.

Strong consideration should be given to using transit sales tax money to obtain the old IBM spur and/or other land needed to make the light rail routing through the Research Park possible.

After reaching the Norfolk Southern rail alignment in Derita the light
rail line would parallel the existing rail line preferably on the east side.  Investigation could be made to determine the possibility of light rail sharing trackage with DMU trains, which are proposed for the North corridor to the Lake Norman area.   Freight traffic on this line could operate at night after light rail and regional rail traffic has ended.  If this is determined to be infeasible then new trackage, preferably on the east side, parallel to the existing NS may have to be built.  This may require moving the NS line to the west to allow two tracks for light rail, and a grade separation for the freight interchange and wye at Atando Avenue.

The NS line is slated for regional rail service from the Lake Norman
area.  Light rail could serve all stops between Derita and Uptown,  allowing regional/commuter rail to run non stop between the two points.  Transfers between each service could be made at the station stop in Derita, or further south near I-85.

Reaching the Statesville Avenue railroad crossing light rail would bend
southeast on road side reservation following the west side of Statesville Avenue and North Graham Street to 10th Street.  Here light rail would turn east using the median of 10th Street to Church Street.  At this point 10th Street could probably be closed to auto traffic allowing light rail a dedicated right of way to North Tryon Street.

The Hal Marshall County Services Center on North Tryon Street and
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police annex on College Street have attracted much interest from developers recently. If cleared for redevelopment light rail could be integrated into the new projects as it moves east from North Tryon Street crossing College Street and connecting with the north end of
the South Corridor light rail service just north of 9th Street.

It should be noted that this routing of light rail for the University Corridor would facilitate run through service with the South Corridor leading to more efficient utilization of equipment and operations of both corridors.  It also brings service from both corridors through the city's East Trade Street Transit Center.  At the same time University Corridor riders would have access to the State's new Inter-city Intermodal Terminal on West Trade Street through transfers in Derita.  North Corridor regional rail passengers would have access to the East Trade Street Transit Center through transfers to light rail at the same point.

There has already been interest expressed in constructing a light rail/trolley corridor linking the South Corridor light rail at it's north end near 9th Street with the West Trade Street Terminal.  This would be via 10th Street,  Smith Street and right of way parallel to the Norfolk Southern mainline between 9th Street and West Trade Street.   Our light rail proposal would use this proposed alignment between College Street and Graham Street.

CEMT believes while construction costs are higher than the busway
proposal offered by consultants in 1998,  light rail is in the best interests of the community for efficient, viable, and attractive transit service from the University area to the Center City for many years into the 21st Century.

Compiled 4/24/99